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How virtual sales teams have changed sales recruitment & management

How virtual sales teams have changed sales recruitment & managementPaul Arnesen
September 16, 2022

Recruiting and managing a virtual sales team is not how it used to be

The way we work changed and is continuing to change. Where once employees were tethered to their desks in physical offices, more and more people are now working remotely, and in virtual teams. This shift has been driven by a number of factors: COVID-19; advances in technology; rise of the gig economy; and changes in employer attitudes in a pre vs post-COVID world.

Key Takeaways

  • It is estimated that a staggering 25-30% of the workforce shifted to remote work since the coronavirus pandemic.
  • As customer-facing teams such as sales and account management moved to virtual environments, how businesses recruit, manage and motivate sales professionals needed to evolve with the changing times.
  • Skills assessment, virtual onboarding and establishing a successful remote culture is core for hiring remote sales talent.
  • Businesses are seeing the huge benefits of having a virtual sales team.
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COVID-19 had a profound impact on the way we work, with an estimated 25-30% of the workforce now working remotely. From how businesses recruit, to how teams are managed, the virtualisation of traditional office based teams has been one of the most significant changes to come out of the pandemic.

Numerous businesses and departments were fast movers in the rapid transition to remote. IT/software development and customer support already embraced remote work. Customer-facing teams such as sales and account management transitioned to work-from-home during the pandemic due to unforeseen circumstances not choice. 

As organisations ramped up their sales force post-covid to increase revenues, how has the recruitment & management of sales professionals changed over the past two-and-a-half years? In this article, we'll explore how the shift to remote work has affected recruitment & the management of sales professionals and what this means for businesses going forward.

How has remote work evolved in recent years?

The way we work has changed dramatically in the last decade. In the past, most sales teams were office or field-based. This meant that businesses had to spend time and money on office space, equipment, and other resources. It also meant that salespeople had to commute to work, which could be time-consuming and expensive.

The traditional 9-5 job involved waking up early, dressing in business attire, and spending the entire day at the office, or travelling to-and-from client meetings. 

A 2021 study on the cost of commuting in the United Kingdom, London, found that the average commuter spent £8,230 per year on travel. Physically, businesses were paying by being stuck on long-term rental agreements costing businesses lots of money. Five-to-seven years ago, co-working i.e. leveraging common office infrastructure and facilities, was on the rise.

Co-working offered advantages to companies, start-ups and freelancers by sharing common utilities such as energy, internet, kitchen, rest rooms and meeting rooms to lower costs compared to leasing office facilities. 

WeWork, a co-working start-up was once valued at $47 billion at the peak of the co-working boom. WeWork is now struggling to survive losing $2 Billion in 2019 alone. Working from home (WFH) rarely existed and was reserved for senior managers or directors.

Working arrangements  were rigid and stringent requiring approval or exceptional circumstances but COVID caused unprecedented changes on multiple levels including the shift to WFM.

Now businesses have embraced remote work, and virtual meetings taking precedence over face-to-face interactions, how sales professionals interact with prospective customers and buyers has changed. In order to recruit the best talent, you need to test and evaluate skills in a digital world and pay close attention to behaviour and remote culture.

Virtual teams need to be tech savvy

As traditional sales teams were and are being replaced by more virtualised versions, the process of recruitment needed to adapt and evolve in order to identify and recruit the best candidates.

Before you could observe and analyse body language, how a candidate performs under pressure, and in face-to-face meetings. As teams started to hire remote sales professionals, there has been a greater emphasis on skills assessments and cultural fit than ever before. 

First, traditional sales skills are still important. The ability to build relationships and close deals is essential in any sales role. However, candidates for virtual sales teams must also be comfortable with technology and able to use various tools and platforms to effectively communicate with customers and prospects.

Virtual teams need to be more tech savvy and better use the array of tools at their disposal.

Skills-assessment of virtual recruitment

Online soft-skills assessments have become a fundamental part of virtual recruitment. It's not uncommon for businesses to evaluate the ideal candidate's ability to sell goods and services. Pre-employment screening may require candidates to demonstrate how they would handle interactions with prospective customers via completing Multiple-choice questions to test problem-solving abilities.

Pitches, and role-plays have been the cornerstone of sales recruitment. With the transition to virtual sales, and most decisions being made over video/web conferencing, there has been a greater use of social media, and video pitches to convince decision-makers. With regards to recruitment and hiring, the fundamentals commonly assessed include but are not limited to: 

  • Communication - verbal and written skills. 
  • Goal setting - what goals (individual & team) is the candidate setting 
  • Research and Planning - How will the candidate develop business, what tools will they use? 
  • Presentations - the ability to use videos and other engaging pitches as part of sales outreach 
  • Consultative selling - is the sales person effectively using sales tactics & methodology?

Testing sales competencies is not only an important part of recruitment, but should be tailored to your organisation and the role per se.  

Evaluation of work-patterns and ethic

One of the important aspects of successfully working from home in terms of achieving results and hitting or exceeding sales targets is behaviour and mindset. The very best sales reps have a positive “can do'' attitude. Before, in the office you could see work ethic, patterns, attendance etc.

This can drastically change in remote settings. Do you have to monitor work continually, or is the individual a self-starter? Does the sales professional tend to slack off, or do they overachieve and smash targets? 

Human resources departments commonly use psychometric and behavioural tests for candidate profiling. A psychometric test can measure and indicate the personality of a candidate, work behaviour or measure cognitive ability. Typically the test takes various forms - numerical, mechanical, logical, reasoning etc.

The use of psychometric tests is nothing new, however for remote recruitment you may decide to use multiple tests or more comprehensive tests and assessments specifically for core & essential skills such as strategic selling, overcoming objections, and territory planning.  

Another tool in remote settings is the use of sales engagement platforms and productivity tools. This becomes paramount in remote work since you are not physically present. Battlecards, elevator pitches, competitor and market analysis - many businesses beefed up the use of sales engagement tools and sales enablement during the transition to work from home. 

Onboarding, training and culture  

Remote onboarding is an important aspect for remote hires. Your first day in your home office with no one to talk to feels very different to walking in the office. Businesses had to revamp their entire onboarding process: from remote IT setup, to assigning onboarding buddies dedicated to answering questions - onboarding had to change with the times.

There is a lot that goes into onboarding employees: IT governance, cyber security, access to internal systems, training, learning and development etc.  

A remote culture requires more than a work-from-home policy. When you go remote with your sales organisation, if you want this to work and see results, sales and business leaders must build and instil a results-driven remote culture.

Culture requires creating the foundations for success by using effective tools, communication, processes and procedures, and leadership to reinforce, encourage and reward results. This culture and tone-from-the-top must be understood and followed by all employees. 

Sales leaders must invest in tools to help remote sales professionals manage the sales process, and prospects, with regular internal communication and alignment . It's important not to micromanage but to empower your sales teams.

Have regular communication and help your reps when they need to overcome internal & external obstacles to close business. Regular 1-2-1`s, and team meetings are a given but you should regularly touch base with your team and identify where support is needed.  

Overcoming obstacles and setting up the newbie up for success

Traditional sales roles are often based in specific geographic locations but with a virtual sales team, candidates and your team can be located anywhere in the world. This opens up a much larger pool of potential candidates, but it also means that companies must be comfortable with managing a team that is not all in one place.

Candidates for virtual sales roles should be comfortable with this type of structure and be able to work effectively without a lot of supervision. You may want to explore how candidates have performed in similar roles and if they are suited to working remotely. 

There are also some challenges associated with a virtual sales team, such as communication difficulties and managing team morale. Additionally, remote employees may have a harder time building relationships with co-workers and developing a sense of company culture.

You can set up your new hire for success by working together to set milestones, learning objectives, and establish a forward-looking career plan with clearly defined goals and objectives. Be transparent, clear, and available as this builds trust and fosters a winning team culture. 

Conclusion 

The rise of remote work has been driven by a number of factors, including the proliferation of high-speed internet and advances in communication technology. These days, it's easier than ever for businesses to connect with remote workers and set up a virtual sales team.

Recruiting virtual sales professionals requires more time and effort in order to test core competencies & behaviour in a remote and virtual environment. Effective management of a remote team requires better use of tools, sales enablement, and clear communication from the top. 

If you are looking to hire remote sales professionals from a highly specialised remote-first recruitment agency to save you time and money, contact the Talentroo team to see how we have assisted others and how we may help you find the best candidate for your business.